Most people who follow the world of equestrian will know photographer Libby Law. She’s the little bundle of black Lycra-clad energy flashing between jumps and arenas creating images that have won international awards and acclaim.
Her excitement is palpable as she gears up for her second WEG campaign. “I am living the dream,” she says. “Sometimes I have to just pinch myself. At every event I have a moment of realisation of just where I am – even the ones I attend every year. I just love how I feel behind the camera and how I feel in that exact moment of true adoration and respect of who I am photographing.”
She’s bubbling about the fast-approaching WEG in Tryon. “It is just so exciting,” says Libby. “It opens up more opportunities for specific shoots and media opportunities too.”
Tryon will be Libby’s second WEG – her first was 2014 in Normandie. “It’s my favourite so far because it is my only one! I am looking forward to seeing what America pulls out. I do Kentucky each year so I have a great admiration for what they do there.”
This is Libby’s eighth year travelling the world shooting equestrian. In the seven months she is offshore, there are only two-three weeks that don’t have an event. That means 80-100 hour weeks are the norm during the season.
“Key for me is not just getting fab pics, but also getting to know the media and those who run the media. I have huge respect for them and like to establish relationships with them for the future.”
Pinnacle events that bring together the world’s media are heaven-sent for Libby.
“For the Olympics, when I walked into the main media centre in Rio, I just felt like I was in heaven. I just love absorbing the energy in these media centres and the excitement of being amongst the world’s best athletes is phenomenal.”
Libby says as “fantastic” as the Olympics are, WEG is “the bees knees for equestrian”.
“This is above any other event I will do, so I talk with ESNZ and other contacts to see what they need. And I am always doing budgets so I know who else I can take on board. I have to manage my time (at WEG) even more so than other events. At other events I may have up to 12 clients, but WEG will be limited to four main ones so that I fire on all cylinders. I have to have extra time and be totally 200% on what I deliver. I want to be the best of the best.”
The world of media calls for fast turnarounds of images – a big challenge when a photographer may have shot hundreds of photos and need to be out on the cross country or arena side for the whole field.
“I need uniquely different shots for each client too – many of my clients will want the leader of the day, so I am arena-side for the entire class.” That could be eight hours of dressage.
I am always looking for emotion too – good or bad – the emotion of what has just happened.” Libby figures she could cover up to 14kms a day on cross country day, and up to six on a dressage day.
She also knows she will be working 16-18 hours a day – “full noise”.
“That’s OK because when you are in the moment, you are firing on all cylinders. I am used to doing back to back events during the season. It will be interesting though because I will be heading to WEG straight out of Burghley, which is one of my busiest events.”
She’s hoping to make the most of her few days between the two. “I do run well on that kind of level of fantastic stress through, getting through on nuts, water, Berocca and coffee – lots of coffee. It is very easy to go the whole day without eating because you get so focussed.”
No matter how late she finishes, Libby always tries to have a cup of tea and do a little reading, to try and wind down. Fitness has always been important to Libby and until a roller blading accident in 2016 that was her outlet. These days she opts for cycling and notches up to 200kms a week.
Her win last year in the prestigious Silver Camera Award brought her to the attention of all. “I still get tingles thinking about it. As a photographer we are so used to capturing the action and stars, and to suddenly have the tables turned and be in the middle of the big arena at Aachen in front of 60,000 people was something else.”
It’s not the only award she has won either – in 2014 she took away the FEI World Photo Grand Prix with an image of Andrew Nicholson.
“I don’t enter many competitions but these two have led to increased business and the recognition has made a huge difference in the clients I now shoot for.”
But as international as that list is, it is always the Kiwis who come first. “My world revolves around the New Zealanders. They are my passion and my drive and I feel very privileged to work alongside them.”
One thing she is always hugely grateful for is the instant gratification she gets from riders, followers and fans who see her work daily.
“It really gives me a huge boost and increases my energy levels more than caffeine will ever do,” she says. “It makes me want to stay focused and work harder the next day, and the next.”
By Diana Dobson